On The Record: Frat Guys And Moms (Not What You’d Think)
Jack White is done with all you Internerds.
In the two months since the White Stripes’ Icky Thump hit stores, he’s explored pretty much every avenue of “viral” marketing in an attempt to make you buy the album, including — but not limited to — dressing up like a Pearly King; screaming at Chicago radio DJs ; and playing one-note concerts in Newfoundland. In fact, you could probably argue that things have been so viral that it’s not even really a marketing campaign at all, but rather a series of seemingly unrelated events that just happened to occur during the promotional cycle in support of Thump … but that’s exactly what Jack wants you to think.
Anyway, he tried, but all you wanted to do was illegally download the thing and share it with your friends, so now, he’s saying, “Screw you,” and moving on to the only demographic that’s a) still buying records; and b) perhaps a bit challenged when it comes to using a computer: ratty-ball-cap-wearin’, Teva-totin’, Amberzombie-lovin’ frat guys.
Case in point: the brand-new “Frat Rock Version” of the Stripes’ single “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You’re Told),” which will be available next month in the U.K. — where, strangely, there are no frat guys. (White works in mysterious ways.)
Though little is known about this new version of the song — and by little, I mean nothing, since the White Stripes’ spokesperson hadn’t commented by press time — I’m gonna guess that it sounds something like DMB and Nickelback jamming together, with the dude from 3 Doors Down and Jack Johnson singing backups (Sweet!). Which makes it pretty much the most ambitious grab for a mainstream audience that the Stripes have ever attempted. Which makes them pretty smart.
Of course, I know the title of the song (and probably the song itself) are both jokes, but White’s on to something here. For years now, everyone has been decrying the downfall of the record industry, but try telling that to Nickelback, whose All the Right Reasons has sold nearly 6 million copies and remained on the Billboard albums chart for 96 weeks now. Or bro-rockin’ Chris Daughtry, who didn’t even win “American Idol” but still managed to move 3 million copies of the self-titled release by his band, Daughtry. Or even the Plain White T’s, who have rode the rock-radio success of “Hey There Delilah” to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. (In a nice bit of synergy, they’ve also made two appearances on ABC’s frat-baiting dramedy “Greek,” — which is either due to their fraternity appeal, or the fact that their label, Hollywood, is owned by Disney, which owns ABC.) Or Hinder. Or the Fray. Or, uh, any another generic, terrible rock act that has somehow, someway, weaseled its way to success.
The point is, someone is buying these records … and all signs seem to point to the roughly 89 percent of the U.S. population that doesn’t reside in New York or Los Angeles. And if we subtract moms (afraid of Jack White), tweens (allowance already spent on “Hannah Montana” albums) and country-music fans (got enough of White during his whole Loretta Lynn phase) from that equation, we’re pretty much left with just frat guys as the biggest potential market the White Stripes can reach.
So, just by attaching “Frat Rock” to the song title, White has probably fooled several shirtless dudes into ordering the U.K. version of the “You Don’t Know What Love Is” single (or at least having their little brothers do it for them). And by following just a few simple steps — like “ditching tight red pants for baggy, multi-pocketed shorts,” “promoting some of Meg’s other attributes” and “giving up on releasing interesting records” — White will soon find himself sitting atop a mountain of platinum records and invites to TKE Woodsers.
And if you wanna go ahead and call him a sellout just because he’s making a play at some of that sweet, sweet Nickelback cash, well, then go ahead. But I’m only going to warn you once … White has already proven himself adept at one area of frat expertise: the senseless, savage beat-down. And if you don’t believe me, just go ask my man Jason Stollsteimer.
It’s a simple case of frat-onomics. And I hope it succeeds. Because I can’t wait for Interpol’s “The Heinrich Maneuver (‘Holy Sh–, Moose Is Totally Turning Blue … Seriously, Jeff, Call the Police … Seriously!’ Version),” which should be hitting stores any day now.
B-Sides: Other Stories I’m Following This Week
I am beyond interested to see what Ozzy would do with a team in “franchise mode” (see ” ‘Madden NFL 08′ Debut Turns Times Square Into A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” )
There was a time when I thought R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” series was hilarious. There was also a time when I thought the same thing about mullets and “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” jokes, too (see “R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped In The Closet’ Rolls On: New Chapter Released Monday, More On The Way” )
AT&T can f—— ——- (see “AT&T Admits It Edited Webcasts Before Pearl Jam’s” )
Questions? Concerns? Bro? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.
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